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Monday 11 to Friday 15 November 2019 is Anti-Bullying Week, an awareness event coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, a member group of the National Children's Bureau. This year's theme, "Change Starts with Us", aims to inform schools, children and young people, parents and carers that it takes a collective responsibility to stop bullying. Change starts here. Change starts now. Change starts with us.
Despite strong national efforts from government bodies, charities, school teachers, parents and media personalities, bullying continues to be a problem in the UK. According to the latest research from the Department of Education, published in November 2018, an estimated 17% of all children aged 10 to 15 years in England had been bullied "in a way that made them frightened or upset" within the last 12 months.
Although this number remains largely consistent over the previous five years, large strides have been made in the field of anti-bullying awareness – a survey published for the year 2009-10 estimated the rate of bullying to be as high as 28.8%.
Here at CHICKS, we're no strangers to the damning effects that bullying can have on a young person's emotional and mental wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. Every year, a large number of the referrals we receive for children and young people to come on a respite break mention some level of bullying – so far in 2019, we have received 164 such referrals, which accounts for almost 19% of all referrals received.
However, when a child arrives on the first day of their CHICKS respite break, they are immediately transported to a welcoming and respectful world where they can be sure they will be free from bullying. "Our highly experienced team of Respite Break Leaders quickly create an open and safe environment for the young people," says Oly Boyce, Head of Respite Breaks at CHICKS. "This allows them to talk about their thoughts and feelings, and brings children together to make new friendships."
Every young person on a CHICKS break is given the opportunity to be who they truly want to be, spending their week with a whole group of new people. Although some are understandably nervous at first, it usually doesn't take long for everyone to be fully integrated and enjoying the slew of activities on offer. The support of adults in the form of break leaders and volunteers, too, is critical to the process.
"Children who are victim to bullying and/or cyberbullying need to be given time and space to do things that relax them and that they enjoy," Oly adds. "At CHICKS we provide a range of both fun and relaxing activities, with a high adult to child ratio so that every young person is given the time and support they deserve. Having many adults around also means that the young people are more likely to identify someone with whom they feel comfortable sharing information about past or present bullying, which can then be passed on to the relevant professionals to be dealt with further."
The benefits of a CHICKS break are clear, too. In a 2018 survey of referral agents conducted by our respite breaks coordination team, 100% agreed that the break had had a "positive impact" on the life of a young person, while 98% reported an improvement in confidence and 91% noted an increase in self-esteem.
Please consider making a donation to CHICKS to help enable more young victims of bullying and other difficult circumstances to attend a CHICKS respite break and make incredible memories that will have a lifelong impact. Plus, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to help us support Anti-Bullying Week 2019. #AntiBullyingWeek #ChangeStartsWithUs #AntiBullying